All you should know about World Test Championship
As criticism against rapid deterioration of Test cricket due to ever-growing emphasis on One-day International and Twenty20 cricket, the International Cricket Council (ICC) on 29 July officially launched its latest remedy for the problem, the World Test Championship (WTC), as a means of saving the grand old game from possible extinction and to give every Test match a new, significant context.
Following are basic details of the WTC that has already heightened the interest on Test cricket which is 142 years old since the first Test was played on 15 March 1877 between England and Australia:
* The prototype of the WTC was the ICC Test Championship which is run for the 12 Test-playing countries. It is a notional competition that simply has a ranking scheme overlaid on all Test matches with no consideration of their home or away status. The ICC Test C’ship Mace is awarded to the team that holds the highest rating (currently India). The mace is transferred whenever a new team moves to the top of the rating list. The team that tops the ratings on 1 April each year also wins a cash prize, currently $1 million.
* ICC holds a 50-over World Cup every four years and a T20 World Cup basically every two years. The WTC spans two years, with the final of the inaugural edition is set for 10-14 June 2021 at Lord’s, London.
* WTC became a reality nearly a decade after the ICC first approved the idea for such a competition in 2010. There were two cancellations to hold the inaugural competition, in 2013 and 2017.
* Why the WTC did not pick up initially was that all Test matches –but for the matches played by Australia, England, and India– are deemed not financially profitable. Therefore it was difficult to set a schedule where each country plays an equal number of matches in a given period.
* The leading countries always want to play four or five-match series while teams like SL have to be contented with two-Test series
* The WTC will be among nine out of the twelve Test playing countries. The countries participating at WTC 2019-21 will be: Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand (NZ), Pakistan, South Africa (SA), Sri Lanka (SL), and West Indies (WI). Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, and Ireland are omitted from WTC, yet they continue to play Test cricket. Those games will not be part of the WTC.
* The first Test belonging to WTC is the first Ashes Test which began on Wednesday, 14 August at Lord’s between England and Australia. The first Test between NZ and SL in Galle is the second.
* In WTC, each country will face six out of the eight remaining countries during a two-year period. As a result, SL will not meet either India or Australia in the first edition of WTC.
* Each country will play six Test series; three at home and three away.
* Each of the six series a country plays may contain a minimum of two Tests and a maximum of five Tests. The number depends on agreement between the two participating countries.
* The number of series each country plays (six) is the same. But the number of Test matches each nation plays will differ. For instance, SL will play six series and 13 matches while England plays six series and 22 matches during the two-year period.
* The total number of Test series involved in this inaugural WTC is 27. The number of Test matches involved is 71.
* Each series contains 120 points, divided by the number of matches belonging to that series (one Test has 60 points if the series involves two matches –like the ongoing SL vs. NZ series– and one Test gets 24 points if the series has five matches).
* The winner gets all the points allocated for each Test. A tie results in points being shared between the two teams. A draw will give each participant 1/3 of the points allocated for the match (if the ongoing Galle Test is drawn, both SL and NZ will receive 20 points each).
* After the 27 series belonging to the first WTC are over, the top two countries will reach the 10 June 2021 finale at Lord’s. If the final will be drawn, the two finalists will be declared joint champions
* SL has a schedule that is advantageous for them. They don’t have any away series against strong Australia, England, India, or NZ. SL will play their away series only in Pakistan, SA, and WI. In all those countries SL have won their previous Test series.
* SL’s WTC 2019-21 schedule: Aug. 2019 – Vs. NZ in SL, Oct. 2019 – Vs. Pakistan in Pakistan, March/April 2020 – Vs. England in SL, July/August 2020 – Vs. Bangladesh in SL, Jan. 2021 – Vs. SA in SA, and Feb./March 2021 – Vs. WI in WI (each series contains two Tests except the SL vs. Bangladesh series which will contain three Tests)
* During the same period, SL will also play Tests against Zimbabwe and Ireland but those matches will not be part of the WTC. The points gained from those matches will anyway be considered in the country-ranking roll which will be the criterion for the second WTC 2021-23.
* The main criticism against WTC is that each team plays only six of the other eight participants. Each team plays a different set of opponents and so has either an easier or harder schedule. NZ doesn’t play both England and SA, two of the highest-ranked teams, whereas Australia do not play SL and WI, two of the lowest-ranked teams. Therefore NZ may have an advantage over Australia.
* Even though on schedule all teams play three series at home and three away, this is not the case with the individual matches. WI play just six Tests at home and nine away.
* Four ‘big countries’ India, England, Australia, and SA, all play each other, in long series. They do not have to play such thorough cricket generally against lower-ranked or weaker nations.
* It is also alleged that the WTC schedule has been agreed upon basically on the size of the TV audiences rather than selecting an even spread of teams. This goes on to show that justifiable success in the competition was not the only priority. TV rights revenue still counts a lot, understandably.